During my first year of teaching, I wrote out “A Teacher’s Thanks,” for all the things I was thankful for as a young teacher. The second year (last year), I didn’t write anything. Not because I wasn’t thankful, but just because I was so focused on trying to survive I wasn’t writing or reflecting at all. Just attempting to exist. It probably would have said “Thanks from a Tired Teacher.”
A few days ago, though, when I sat down to write a gratitude post, I realized that I have absolutely no idea how to label myself anymore, and that was a little upsetting. I know it sounds strange, since we’re supposed to ~defy labels~, but I’ve always had some kind of identifier: I was a teacher, I was a TFA corps member, I was a USC Trojan. I’ve always had some kind of job or activity that defined who I was, a part of something of which I was so passionate that it essentially encompassed my being. This time last year, however, my label had left me stale.
One of the reasons I left teaching was to try and stop gain some of that sense of joy and passion back in my life. Teaching had been the label I had given myself, but instead of defining a passion as it once had, it had become something so consuming that I got lost. I needed space to focus and figure out what was coming next, because the current job was not giving me what I hoped. I think I’ve started to do that. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life that, while tough, have been (I think) for the better.
That said, and something I didn’t realize would be a direct consequence, was that when you take a step back to reevaluate your life, you have to go through a period of not knowing what the fuck you are doing.
That is terrifying, especially to someone who gets daily joy from the 10 minutes she spends updating up her Google Calendar, and has had an infograph-style 5 year plan hanging in her office. The fact is that, in order to really reshape my life and figure out my future, it’s going to involve not knowing exactly what I want or how to get there, and essentially making my life a little bit shambles for now. I’ve been so goal-oriented for, you know, the past 16 or so years of my life, that suddenly being unsure of the goal is a little rough.
Don’t get me wrong— I know that I’m incredibly fortunate. I have a stable, well-paying job. Though it may not be the focus of what I had planned, I like said job. I have amazing people in my life that provide an unparalleled amount of love/generosity/kindness/laughter, and a cute (albeit rambunctious) cat. I am in no way complaining here.
Still, the assumption that because I found a job and a place to live would mean that I’d be “figured out” was a silly one on my part. Instead, it’s just reminded me of what I
want need to find next. While it’s apt, I don’t want to get caught up in SIMPLY being another Twenty Something. Don’t get me wrong, I clearly love the phrase, and a lot of what it entails, but what I’m less caring on being able to name myself as I am being able to name my passion. I want to find that passion, group, cause, or whatever that’s going to get me excited to be a part of something again. Maybe it’s outside of work— I don’t know anymore, but I think that’s okay, so I can take the time to find out. So, with that…
(Belated) Thanks From A Girl In Transition
- For the standard, but never-taken-for-granted things: amazing parents, an inspiration of a brother, great family (blood and the ones I’ve made into my own friend-families), a wonderful guy, a job, and a roof over my head. These consistent cogs of stability, laughter, patience and love literally keep the not-so-stable machine of my life humming happily. Every day, I am blessed.
- For running. As a non-standard thank you, I really can’t say this enough. Thank you for the wonderful, repetitive motion that keeps me sane, happy, and (relatively) in shape. It’s funny, but it’s difficult to put into words how important it is to me. Oh, and epic thanks for some amazing people I get to start sharing it with, and the ones I’m proud of for starting!!
- For Teach For America. Surprising, perhaps, given what I said above, but absolutely true. When I was doing interviews last month for TFA, prospects asked me if I enjoyed my corps experience. Not only did I genuinely get to say yes, but I also realized how much it has really changed my life. It led me to running. It introduced me to a group of kids that still inspire me. I’ve met my closest friends through Teach For America. I’ve learned how to reflect on thoughts and actions, which I truly think has made me more mature and more “together.” It helped me learn about what kind of person I was. It made me more patient, more caring, and more confident. Because I was able to stand in front of those kids every day and not fall apart, I really feel like there’s no challenge I can’t face if I don’t want to. That is an infinitely valuable feeling to develop, and I’m truly thankful I was given the experience to create that.
-For meals for one, so that I don’t have to eat the same thing all week, thank you.
-For a weird, new-found confidence in my body. Not that I’m thinking I’m a super model or anything, but all this running has finally given me enough positivity to look in a mirror and say “huh, not too shabby!” without wanting to punch myself in the face afterwards (though I kinda want to punch myself as I write this, I’ll hold it together). It also has given me the confidence to wear kinda-skinny corduroys, which has increased my fashion styling abilities by 10 pts.
- For red wine. Seriously, where has this been all of my 21+ life? It’s good for my heart, it’s less fattening than beer, and it makes me look classy as fuck when I order it? #nailingit (and epic thanks to my beautiful wine-guru-girlfriends for helping me ease into it from super-girly drinks).
-For my Bings. He is a consistent source of companionship, meowing, snuggles, and headaches. He makes me laugh, ensures that I don’t die alone, and reminds me that even when my life is in shambles, I can (kinda) care for another living creature. Though he currently likes my neighbor AND my boyfriend more than he likes me, I know that he will soon realize that, you know, I FEED YOU, CAT. I FEED YOU. LOVE ME, DAMMIT*ahem*
- For the non-family adults in my life who provide a lot of love and mentorship via the internet and in person. Former professors, parents-of-friends, and just people that have come into my life: you all help me look at the bigger picture. Thanks for doing that when you really have no obligation to.
- For technology. Look, you might be a huge curmudgeon about the internet, and wonder when The Facebook and The Twitter and The Tumblr will finally kill us all, but I’m fucking pumped about it. I have a community of runners world-wide who inspire me, just through tech. I get to stay in touch with people with whom it would be difficult to see. I get to share memories and news with my family easily. I get cool hairstyles and am readily updated on everything from the #occupy movement to the latest entertainment scandal. My friends and I can exchange pictures of ridiculous things with each other in seconds. My mom knows I’m not dead because she follows me on Twitter. All of these things are awesome.
- For living in a time and place where not just me, but a whole community of my peers are in transition too. It makes the world feel a smidgen less lonely.